Dense, moist, and decadently rich, this coconut flour cake is an easy gluten- and grain-free alternative to traditional yellow cake. While the rich flavor of coconut comes through in this recipe, it’s not overpowering and the effect is at once subtle but distinct.
I like to serve this for children’s birthdays as it tends to be higher in protein and fat than traditional birthday cake. That means increased satiety, and since the cake is naturally gluten- and dairy-free, it’s appropriate for many children who experience food sensitivities. The frosting is a traditional buttercream, spiked with coconut, but you can easily substitute a dairy-free alternative if that’s to your liking.
What is it?
Unlike traditional cakes which are typically made with all-purpose or pastry flour, this cake is made with coconut flour. Accordingly, it’s naturally gluten- and grain-free which makes it a great match for people who adhere to restrictive diets either by necessity or choice.
Coconut flour gives the cake a moist, rich texture distinguished by a light flavor, which you can amplify with the addition of coconut milk and extract. Alternatively, you can subdue that coconut-rich flavor with vanilla, almond, or citrus extracts if you prefer.
Coconut flour is a tricky flour to bake with, and it doesn’t behave like traditional grain-based flours. Its high absorbency means that it takes up a substantial amount of liquid. So, you’ll want to use plenty of eggs and coconut milk to make this recipe.
- Use plenty of eggs. Coconut flour is super absorbent, and eggs help give the cake moisture as well as structure.
- Separate your eggs and whip the whites, to help the cake rise.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting, or your frosting will melt.
- Use low-fat coconut milk in the cake for better texture and to lend moisture to coconut flour without greasiness. Full-fat coconut milk works well in the frosting where its fat content is needed.
- Quality coconut flour matters. The quality of coconut flour varies significantly across brands, and it can be gritty in texture. I recommend using Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour because it has a superfine texture that makes for a closer resemblance to traditional yellow cake.
Coconut Flour Cake
For the Cake
- coconut oil (for preparing your pans)
- 10 eggs (separated)
- 1 (13.5 oz) can low-fat coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour
- 2 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill Arrowroot Starch
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the Frosting
- 2 cups salted butter (softened)
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk
- 2 (8-inch) cake tins
- Parchment Paper
- Mixing Bowls
Make the cake.
- Heat the oven to 375 F. Grease your baking tins with coconut oil, and then line them with parchment paper.
- Place the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl, and then beat them until they form stiff peaks. Set them aside while you prepare the rest of the cake batter.
- Beat the egg yolks, low-fat coconut milk, vanilla, and coconut extract together until uniformly smooth. Beat in the sugar.
- In a separate bowl, sift the coconut flour, arrowroot starch, salt, and baking powder together. Work the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients until they form a thick batter, and then fold in the egg whites.
- Spoon the batter evenly into two prepared baking tins, transfer to the oven and bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack, allowing the cakes to cool about 5 minutes in their pan before turning them out to cool completely.
Make the frosting.
- Add the softened butter and powdered sugar to the basin of your stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat powdered sugar into the butter until thickened and well-incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract, coconut extract, and coconut milk until the frosting becomes soft and workable.
- Frost the cake only when the cake has cooled completely. Serve.
Can you make it without eggs? Coconut flour benefits from the fat in egg yolks and protein in egg whites. You can experiment with using chia egg substitute or a flax egg substitute, but it may significantly impact this recipe.
How do I tone down the coconut flavor? Substitute citrus extract or almond extract for coconut extract, and swap heavy cream for coconut milk.
Can I make the frosting dairy-free, too? You can substitute organic palm shortening for butter to make a dairy-free frosting. Make sure to source from a brand that emphasizes ethical and sustainable harvest practices.
Can I use honey, coconut nectar or maple syrup? Yes, these liquid sweeteners tend to be a little sweeter than sugar, so use less of them. You may also need to cut back on other liquid ingredients, like the coconut milk to accommodate the increase in moisture.
If you’re looking to cut back on the powdered sugar in the frosting recipe, try this recipe for honey buttercream instead.